One of my favorite places on earth.... Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. It was always a tradition on Black Friday to head out into the mountains instead of into stores and that annual trip as a kid has grown into multiple trips a year, whenever I need to feel reconnected to myself.
This year, immediately after my last final exam I went home to pick up Odin and then we drove down to Front Royal and up on the Drive. We made it to South Marshall and hiked up the trail so that we could just sit and enjoy the piece and quiet. On our way up we passed two hikers and then we had solitude for our remaining time there. Winter in the park is actually one of my favorite times of year. Yes, it's almost bitter cold some days with the wind whipping around your face, but with the right clothing that's not a problem when you look at the big picture of solitude. There's no denying that the park is gorgeous in the fall, but try to find a single trail where you could come across a deer and it'll be impossible due to the plethora of people. So, winter it is.
Hitting the mountain after that week... wow. My friend had stayed with me during finals week and it was tough. It was our hardest finals week yet, but it was the best I have had. We were driven and we worked hard. In fact, the night before my last exam (and this hike) we both got less than 4 hours of sleep. The Park brings out all of those feelings. It sort of put a period at the end of the sentence. Rather than metaphorically climbing a mountain like we have been all semester I was able to go physically do it. And I can't decide which way I like better.